How did an English song of love and loss vanish completely, only to pop up in a remote part of the Appalachian mountains as one of their many "love songs"? In tracing its story we come across the colourful characters who played a part in bringing it to the wider world. We cross the water in the cramped steerage quarters of a transatlantic sailing ship, and fly back over the ocean on the wings of a little bird to find an older song that may have been its source.
The first verse of Pretty Saro is based on a version collected in North Carolina by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles.
The mountain dulcimer version was kindly recorded for this podcast by Chris Nelson, you can hear Chris being interviewed on the podcast here.
I've based the singing of Pretty Sarah (1911) collected by John Lomax on the singing of Cas Wallin, recorded in 1982 for the Alan Lomax archive.
The Streams of Bunclody (first verse only) is the more well known tune, recorded by Luke Kelly and by Emmet Spiceland.
The tune introducing Patrick Kennedy is The Boys of Wexford.
The full version of The Streams of Bunclody, embedded into The Banks of the Boro is based on a version recorded by the Wexford traditional singer Aileen Lambert. I'm a big fan, and her version is as far away as possible from being "a maudlin lay"!
An account of Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles’ travels in the Appelachians, including extracts from Sharp’s journal, can be found here: https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/sharp.htm
From: Cohane, Mary Ellen, and Kenneth S. Goldstein. “Folksongs and the Ethnography of Singing in Patrick Kennedy’s The Banks of the Boro.” The Journal of American Folklore 109, no. 434 (1996): 425–36. https://doi.org/10.2307/541184.
Maud Karpeles’ own account of her visit to the Appalachians in 1950: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4521358
Maud Karpeles’ journals from her visit to Appalachia 1950: https://www.vwml.org/archives-catalogue/MK
Some Ballads of North Carolina, by John Lomax: https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/lomax/lomax.html
A copy of The Banks of the Boro by Patrick Kennedy can be found here: https://archive.org/details/banksboroachron01kenngoog
The Maid of Bunclody http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/search/?query=+2806+b.9%28206%29
The Streams of Bunclody in Halliday Sparling’s Irish Minstrelsy. Irish minstrelsy. Being a selection of Irish songs, lyrics, and ballads : Sparling, H. Halliday (Henry Halliday) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Bundclody on the Mainly Norfolk website. https://mainlynorfolk.info/folk/songs/themaidfrombunclody.html
Huge thanks to my family for putting up with my endless research and singing over Christmas and New Year, especially Steven Shaw who has the patience of a saint.
Thank you as always to Maddy and Rose-Ellen at Stones Barn, who helped me to find my voice again.